Writers and Excuses

I’m sitting here in front of my computer just browsing around sites that I visit frequently, if not daily: NY Times, NY Mag, Atlantic, ESPN, et al. Just this morning, I was linked to an article about the 70 greatest pop culture conspiracy theories. You know, Elvis isn’t dead, Stevie Wonder isn’t blind, Paul McCartney actually died in 1971 and was replaced. The article had links to YouTube videos. It was a colossally distracting way to spend an hour.

But I wasn’t writing. I have a story to report on Wednesday night. I could have been prepping for that. I have another lead on a story for which I need to write a short pitch (to an editor I know and like and have worked with a lot, so it’s not even a really formal pitch). I could have been working on that. And I didn’t.

The house is quiet (the 7-month old has a bit of a cold and is napping). It’s a perfect opportunity to write or pitch or to be in some way proactive.

As writers, I think it’s easy to get into the mode of excuse making. Why wasn’t I writing? Want the reasons that I gave myself this morning in a morning of weakness?

I sat down at the computer, opened Pages.

Shook my coffee mug. “Ah, halfway empty. Let’s refill.” (Excuse #1)

I used the bathroom. (Excuse #2)

“What did the Celtics rank in total defense in 2015-16?” Googled it.

Stayed on basketball-reference.com for an extended time. Evan Turner likes to shoot mid-range jumpers? Word. I think there was a reference to this on The Ringer.

“2016-17 NBA Predictions? Well, this constitutes ‘work’ I think.” (Excuse #3)

Proceeds to read article that didn’t mention the Celtics once.

“I barely slept the last few nights (Excuse #4). I just need to chill out in the quiet for a couple minutes.” Reads NY Mag.

Well, here I am. And note that I did get some research and questions written down before I started writing here. The bottom line, maybe, is that writing can be hard. Getting motivated to write can be even harder. I had a friend in college who was fond of saying, “Doing nothing is the hardest thing to stop doing.”

We give ourselves excuse after excuse to delay the process until it becomes something more along the lines of, “Well, I have a grocery list to make and shopping to do and the trash won’t take itself out,” and then we don’t write. We make these impossible deadlines like write 1,000 words every day or write two pages of your book every day. We look at those goals and convince ourselves that, because we can’t accomplish that today, we shouldn’t do anything.

It’s like quitting a diet after two weeks because you snuck one brownie after dinner on a Saturday night. You don’t always have to meet your goals, every day. You just have to stay on the path, every day. Some days you’re going to exceed your goal; Some days you won’t even get halfway there. Both are okay. We just can’t let the latter get in the way.

 

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